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What is a Deviated Septum?

written by: M. DePietro • edited by: dianahardin • updated: 4/19/2011

A deviated septum can cause a variety of problems, including sinus infections and trouble breathing. Treatments are available, if symptoms are significant enough. Medication or surgery may be needed.

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    Definition

    The nasal septum is a thin wall of bone and cartilage, which separates the right and left cavities of the nose. When it becomes pushed or displaced to one side, the condition is known as a deviated septum.

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    Causes

    Although some people may be born with a deviated septum, it usually is caused by an injury to the nose. Any trauma to the nose can lead to the displacement of the septum. An injury to the nose during childbirth can occur, which leads to the condition. A common cause of a deviated septum is an injury from playing contact sports. Various sports, such as football, wrestling and basketball, may lead to a hit to the nose, which displaces the nasal septum. The condition can also be a result of a car accident or a fall.

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    Symptoms

    Some people may not have any symptoms with a deviated septum. When symptoms do occur, they may vary, depending on the severity of the deviation. Since one side of the nose is obstructed by a deviated septum, it can be difficult to breath out of the nose. This can also lead to post nasal drip, a condition where blocked mucus drips down the back of the throat. A sore throat may develop, as a result. Sinus infections may occur often, due to the accumulation of mucus. The nose may also become very dry, which can lead to irritation and nose bleeds. Because the nose is blocked, snoring may develop during sleep.

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    Long-Term Consequences

    Since a deviated septum can cause sinus infections to continually reoccur, this can lead to lost days at work or school. Trouble breathing and snoring during sleep may interfere with proper rest. This can lead to headaches, trouble concentrating and memory problems.

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    Treatment

    Treatment may be aimed at reducing symptoms of a deviated septum or correcting the problem. Medication may be prescribed, which helps reduce nasal congestion. This can reduce swelling in the nasal passages, but may not help completely, since the septum may still be blocking one side of the nose. Antihistamines may also be used to prevent and treat a runny nose. Since mucus may be blocked from flowing out of the nose and lead to sinus infections, antihistamines, which dry up the mucus, may help.

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    Surgery

    Although medications may ease symptoms, they cannot correct the deviation. The only way to fix a deviated septum is through surgery. This type of deviated septum surgery is known as septoplasty. During the procedure small parts of the septum inside the nose may be cut and removed, and then it will be realigned into the proper position. Septoplasty is usually performed under general anesthesia, but an overnight hospital stay will likely not be required. Most patients will have their nose packed with gauze, to prevent nosebleeds. This will typically be removed within a day or two of surgery.

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